How To Protect Your Deceased Loved One’s Identity

Losing a loved one is a heartbreaking, gut-wrenching event that can turn your world upside down. Sadly, many criminals exploit this terrible event and steal your deceased loved one’s identity. In fact, the identities of almost 2.5 million deceased Americans have been stolen and used to fraudulently open credit card accounts, apply for loans and get cellphone or other services, according to AARP. The predators of this world troll for personal information from hospitals, funeral homes, and/or obituaries. With a name, address and birth date, criminals can purchase your deceased loved one’s Social Security number for a nominal fee. Don’t...

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Estate Planning Tip: Leave a Personal Touch

Many people experience a common nostalgic scenario – you’re cleaning out your closet or rummaging through the pile of boxes in your attic and stumble upon family photos. Your mind is inundated with a wave of memories and emotion. For some people, they embrace this moment and take a trip down memory lane. Your estate plan should incorporate this type of personal touch with a reflection of the life you’ve lived and loved ones you've left behind. Unfortunately, many estate planning attorneys focus solely on the nitty-gritty of estate planning such as making sure you have a valid will, properly...

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Estate Planning Tip: Watch Out for State Taxes

When people begin estate planning, they probably think about the federal estate tax (commonly referred to as the “death” tax). However, a lesser-discussed tax issue is state estate and inheritance taxes. This is a complex, state-based issue and it’s advisable for you to sit down with an experienced estate planner to make sure your plan takes into consideration potential state taxes. Some states collect estate taxes and while other states collect inheritance taxes (some actually collect both). You may be thinking, “what the heck is the difference between an estate tax and an inheritance tax?” Well, an inheritance tax is...

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As the New Year Approaches, Take Time to Re-Examine Your Estate Plan

We’re rapidly approaching 2015 and now is the time that many people take a step back to take inventory of big events in 2014 and plan for the new year. If you have an estate plan, it’s a good rule of thumb to re-examine your plan at least once a year (do NOT put together a plan and throw it into a lockbox for all eternity- it simply will not work). If you do not have an estate plan, you should make it a goal for 2015. Remember, estate planning is not just for you, it is also about...

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Estate Planning Tip: You May Be Able to Qualify for a Real Estate Tax Exemption

Did you know that seniors are eligible to reduce their real estate property tax bill if they meet certain state and local requirements? As part of the estate planning process, proper counseling should also include taking full advantage of tax programs that are available to alleviate the tax on your estate while you are alive as well as after you die. For example, in Maryland, Virginia, and District of Columbia, there are programs allowing credits to be applied against your property tax bill, as long as the property taxes exceed a fixed percentage of your gross income. Basically, this places...

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Will The Money You Leave Behind Ruin Your Children or Grandchildren?

It’s one of those fears many individuals (especially wealthy individuals) have, but rarely speak about. They aren’t worried about the “death tax” or other inheritance taxes. In fact, the concern isn’t heirs receiving too little money; it’s receiving too much. The concern is that inherited wealth can have adverse effects on the people inheriting the money. The beneficiaries could treat it as though they won the lottery and splurge on reckless, irresponsible purchases. Imagine, the money you worked so hard to accumulate ends up being blown on a fleet of fancy cars or, even worse, a drug habit or...

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No Will Hunting – Robin Williams Used a Living Trust

Robin Williams made millions during his career and took steps to protect his wealth so it could be passed down to his three children. Did he just have a simple will based plan? No. Instead, reports indicate that Mr. Williams likely had a plan centered around a revocable living trust. Why would Williams, and other individuals, opt not to have a just a will based plan? First, the probate process can be very complicated and time consuming because it requires the estate be administered through the court system. Think about your experiences that involve the courts or the government...

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Protecting Your Assets from Unintended Beneficiaries

It’s a common, and quite unfortunate, scenario – your child gets married and all seems well. The spouse becomes part of the family. Then, that seven-letter word starts to be bantered about – “divorce”. Suddenly, questions arise as to whether your now ex-son-or-daughter-in-law is entitled to any assets of your estate plan. A simple strategy to avoid this scenario is to set up a revocable living trust. One of the most attractive features of trusts is that they can be shaped to serve a variety of different circumstances and achieve different objectives. In fact, trusts are routinely utilized for gifting,...

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Unmarried? No Excuse to Neglect Estate Planning

Just because you haven’t tied the proverbial knot doesn't mean you and your significant other should neglect properly planning your estate. Getting your estate organized is not exclusive to elderly folk or married couples. Everyone, including unmarried couples, should take the time to get a plan together. Here are some important tips for couples who have yet to say “I do.” First, if you and your significant other are living together, but aren't yet married, make sure your assets will pass to the other if you suddenly die. You can accomplish this by naming each other as beneficiaries on all...

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How to Plan Your Estate When Married to a Noncitizen Spouse

If your spouse does not possess U.S. citizenship, estate planning becomes somewhat complicated. A unique set of rules applies for noncitizens to inherit property so you should really take the time to sit down with an experienced estate planning attorney to discuss your options. But take comfort in knowing that noncitizen spouses and loved one can inherit your property. So when you draft your will or name beneficiaries for your retirement accounts, you are free to name your noncitizen spouse as a beneficiary. Here’s the rub - for tax purposes, non-citizens who are permanent U.S. residents are categorized as “resident...

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